|Birth name||Leonard Borisoff|
June 12, 1942 |
West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Genres||Pop, blue-eyed soul|
|Labels||Brunswick, RCA, Decca|
|Associated acts||The Dovells|
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Barry had little thought of a show business career while still in school. Instead, he aspired to become a professional baseball player upon his graduation. It was not until he entered military service and had occasion to sing with the U.S. Coast Guard band at Cape May, NJ, and was so encouraged by the response of his military audiences, that he decided to make music a career.
Upon his discharge from military service, Barry returned home to Philadelphia and joined the Dovells as their lead singer. His is the lead voice on their best selling records "Bristol Stomp", "Hully Gully Baby" and "You Can't Sit Down", among others. "Bristol Stomp" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Barry also made film appearances with the Dovells in films such as Don't Knock the Twist, as well as guest appearances on US television on The Dick Clark Show, Shindig, and Hullabaloo. Soon after leaving the group, Barry recorded his first solo single "Lip Sync".
As a predominately blue-eyed soul singer, he recorded two hits in 1965 for Decca Records in the US and released by Brunswick Records in the UK: "1-2-3", and "Like a Baby", both of which made the Top Ten of the UK Singles Chart. Those songs also peaked at #2 and #27 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart respectively. "1-2-3" sold over one and three quarter million copies, and gave Barry his second gold disc. Both "1-2-3" and "Like a Baby" were composed by Barry, John Madara and Dave White, one of the original Juniors from Danny & the Juniors. Barry also covered "Treat Her Right" by another blue-eyed soul act, Roy Head and the Traits.
In 1969 Barry and Madara co-produced The Original Version: Journey To The Moon LP for Buddah Records. According to Madara, "Neil Bogart wanted to be the first record company out with authentic conversations with the astronauts and others, including President Nixon, using original music that we composed." Barry used Madara's studio band (including Daryl Hall of future Hall & Oates fame) that would become Gulliver: (Tim Moore (guitar), Tom Sellers (bass), Daryl Hall (keyboards), Jim Helmer (drums) and named them the 'Sound of Genesis' for this album. Sellers arranged it and it was billed as being recorded live on Earth, in Space and on the Moon. According to Madara, this album "was approved by NASA, who sent in the tapes every day to us of the moon flight, which we used on the LP."
Barry, obsessed with Indian culture, then went on to write and produce "Keem-O-Sabe" (which his longtime friend, sometime manager, and America's first club DJ Alan White called the first disco hit record), and was later instrumental in the creation of the Philadelphia disco sound. Again, Sellers arranged it and the future Gulliver performed it (this time as "The Electric Indian") in conjunction with two musicians, Bobby Eli (guitar) and Vince Montana (vibraphone), who would go on to fame with MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra. "Broad Street", the single's B-side, also written and produced by Barry and never issued on an LP, was an instrumental.
Even after his period of hit records ended, Barry continued performing his entertaining stage act, and later moved into songwriting and production work with WMOT Productions. With Bobby Eli he helped write the hit singles "Zoom" for Fat Larry's Band, and "Love Town" for Booker Newberry III.
In May 2008, Barry reinvented himself as a writer with the publication of the semi-autobiographical novel, Black-Like-Me. The storyline involved a pair of Caucasian siblings growing up in a largely African-American neighborhood, accepted by some, rejected by others; in a sort of reverse-perspective morality tale.
- The song "1-2-3" was featured on the soundtrack for the film Mr. Holland's Opus.
- "1-2-3" was one of the songs that appeared in John Lennon's jukebox.
- Motown Records sued the songwriters[when?], Len Barry and Dave White, claiming that "1-2-3" was a reworked copy of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song "Ask Any Girl". The songwriters did admit to taking the composition, and the lawsuit led to Holland-Dozier-Holland's getting equal credit for writing "1-2-3" as noted on the Billboard Top 10 official album.
- In December 2005, Welsh singer-songwriter Cerys Matthews recorded a new version of "1-2-3" in Nashville, Tennessee.
- In 1994, Scottish star Edwyn Collins sampled "1-2-3" for part of his hit "A Girl Like You".
The Dovells (as lead singer)
- "Bristol Stomp" (1961) - #2 US Billboard Hot 100
- "The New Continental" (1962) - #37 US Billboard Hot 100
- "Bristol Twisting Annie" (1962) - #27 US Billboard Hot 100
- "Hully Gully Baby" (1962) - #25 US Billboard Hot 100
- "You Can't Sit Down" (1963) - #3 US Billboard Hot 100
- "Lyp Sync" (1964) - #70 US Billboard Hot 100
- "1-2-3" (1965) - #2 US Billboard Hot 100; #3 UK
- "Like a Baby" (1966) - #27 US Billboard Hot 100; #10 UK
- "Somewhere" (1966) - #26 US Billboard Hot 100
- 1-2-3 (1965) - Decca Records
- My Kind of Soul (1967) - RCA Records
- More from the 123 Man (1982) - Bulldog
- List of artists under the Decca Records label
- List of people from Philadelphia
- List of NME covers
- List of performers on Top of the Pops
- "Len Barry". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- "Len Barry ("1-2-3") denies involvement in murder and talks about white racism suffered as a non-African American soul singer in the 1960's. Part 1 of his interview on "The Strange Dave Show" | The Strange Dave Show on Blip". Blip.tv. 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 134 & 186. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 43. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "John Madara Remembers". Forgotten Hits. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "Len Barry's Bio Page". Lenbarry.com. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "Zoom - Fat Larry's Band | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "Love Town - Booker Newberry III | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "BLACK-LIKE-ME: Len Barry, Spencer Barry: 9781904408345: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "Len Barry Latest Albums | MTV". Vh1.com. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- Billboard Top 40 Hits (8th Edition) by Joel Whitburn
- Len Barry biography at Allmusic website
- Len Barry discography at Discogs
- Oldies.com biography
- Bigvjamborree.com website